Tuesday, December 31, 2019

How 2019 Fell Through The Cracks

Well, this year was a bit of a doozy for us.  As I mentioned in the post I wrote about us taking a hiatus, we experienced what I called a hiccup with our truck and business that took us off the road for the last 10 months.  During the time we've been home, Ed had to work on putting together the specs for a new truck and trailer, of which the build time was going to take 9 months.  

As a result of us being off the road and dealing with business and health stuff, my year-end meme has been a little more difficult to fill out.  I'm certainly looking forward to the new century that's upon us and can't wait to see what's in store for 2020. So let's get it started!

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
For the first time ever, we visited the San Antonio River Walk.  We saw the Parade of Lanterns, and visited the Alamo.

Also, for the first time, had groceries delivered to our truck - boy, was that convenient! 

We made bread!  And it was incredible. 

Ed got into making smoothies (using the Vitamix blender he bought me last Christmas).  

I made gnocchi.  I can't say I've never done it before, because I made them once maybe 30 years ago, but that was an unsuccessful attempt so I'm not counting it. This time I got it right. 

The ones I made last month were amaaazing and exactly how I remember the gnocchi of my childhood.

We did 
a lot of cooking while we were home.

I made eggplant parmigiana, several types of pizza, a rustic cherry tart, chicken marsala, pico de gallo salsa, butternut squash dip, mini trifles for dessert... 

Oh, and we grew tomatoes!  I bought Ed two tiny plants that were maybe three inches high when I got them.  Honestly, I didn't think we'd ever see a tomato.  Now they're over three feet high and we have tomatoes!

So if worse comes to worst, I know we can survive on homemade bread and tomatoes.  

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 

I said I was going to take up a hobby, which I didn't do, so clearly I'm bad at the resolution stuff. I'm not making any this year.  Or ever, maybe.  Nope.  

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?
No foreign countries this year, but our European trip from last year has lit a small raging fire and I feel a physical need to get back to Paris.  Soon.  

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019? 

Mental stimulation.  I think I need to engage my mind more often for more interesting things. I'm going to go with finding a hobby again. Even though I didn't get one this year, I think I have to start creating. 2020 seems like a good year for that.  I think that's where gardening might come in.

7. What dates from 2019 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

December 23, 2019 - the day I found out my mother's melanoma hadn't spread and she was considered to be cancer-free.  That day happens to also be my wedding anniversary, so it'll be something I won't forget.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not dying.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not living to my greatest potential. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I suffered an injury early in the year and then two days before Christmas, I got bronchitis.  I'm incessantly coughing as I type this.  

11. What was the best thing you bought?

New readers from Blue Planet Eyewear.  I love this company and now I have more than enough pairs scattered anywhere my eyes might be.  I bought a pair for my brother as one of his birthday gifts and not only does he look super handsome in them (The Naturalist, with the light green frames), he actually loves them!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
This woman right here.  She's not only famous for the clap heard around the world, but she's cool as a cucumber, an all-around badass, and she plays Kasparov-level chess.  

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 

I think this answer will continue to be 45 until he's out of office.  He's an absolute disgrace and a worldwide embarrassment.  Impeachment is not nearly enough.

14. Where did most of your money go? 

Money?  10 months of unemployment = no money.  What we did have we probably spent on food and healthcare.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Taking delivery of our new truck - 
a 2020 Volvo VNL 300 with a 132" ARI Custom Sleeper.  After waiting months for it to be built, it was finally ready for us to take home.  

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?

Good As Hell and Soulmate by Lizzo.  Hair toss, check my nails, baby how you feelin'? Feeling good as hell!  I don't know where I've been, but I didn't know about this artist before this year.  I heard "Good As Hell" in a movie and immediately thought it was catchy and it stuck with me, and "Soulmate" I discovered through Tracee Ellis Ross's Instagram post.  Glad I found Lizzo!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

Happy, fat, and poor.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

This is always a big regret category.  I guess I wished I did more things that are good for me (eating right, exercising), produced something (hobby, craft), or spent time doing the things I always put off (organizing my iTunes, streamlining my computer files, scanning photos for my digital photo album...).  I let too much get away from me.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Loafing.  Normally, I love to loaf, but this year I had so much free time since we were out of work, I should have used that time more wisely when I had the chance.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home with Ed, my mother, and my brother and his family.  It was a small group this year (just 8), I did the cooking (as usual), and we had a really nice evening.  I even scored pretty big points with the gifts for my three teenage nephews which is a plus because those are the most difficult gifts for me to buy.   

21. Did you fall in love in 2019?
Not with anyone or anything I can think of.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I'm still into "A Million Little Things" and "This Is Us".  I did have a lot of time to watch TV this year but mostly I did movies, not TV shows.  

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Yes, there are a few I've added to the list.

24. What was the best book you read?

I haven't read a book all year.  I haven't even listened to an audiobook.  Wow.  Typing that makes me realize how lame I am.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I'd have to go with Lizzo. 

26. What did you want and get?
Oddly, puzzles and fake plants.  I'm 90 now, haven't you heard?  Oh, and I also had the age spots frozen off my face.  I may be 90 but I'll be damned if I'm going to look 90!

27. What did you want and not get?

I wanted another foreign vacation but several things prevented that from happening, so I guess I'll have to start researching something for later this year or early 2021. 

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Aeronauts.  I watched it tonight, New Year's Eve.  It was visually beautiful and I liked that the story was based on true events.  

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I spent the day on the phone chasing information, went to the doctor, ran some errands, then went out to dinner with Ed and my best friend, Kim.  I turned 52.  

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If we worked more.  I love my job, I enjoy traveling and providing a needed service, and doing it provides me a pretty decent amount of satisfaction.  In addition to not having any money coming in, I felt a bit of a void not having actual work to do.  

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

Multi-Wear Fashion....wearing the same clothes for several days in a row.  You may think that's gross, but apparently, I'm very on-trend.  

32. What kept you sane?

Having complete control of my entire day.  Doing what I wanted, when I wanted.  Feeling tired?  Take a nap.  Feeling bored?  Go out.  Feeling hungry?  Order food.  Whatever, whenever.  

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I've been following Erica Lugo from Dayton, Ohio on Instagram for quite some time now.  She's lost over 150 pounds since the beginning of her journey (she lost 130 in the first 15 months) and not only does she own a fitness studio and have a large following online, but she's the newest trainer on the new season of Biggest Loser, which premiers January 28, 2020.  She's beautiful and inspiring and recently shared her engagement news.  The wedding is set for April 4, 2020!  Her online community will definitely be following along.  

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

I can't even make a choice.  I'm so incensed by everything that's going on, I can't pick just one. 

35. Who did you miss?
I can't think of anyone I missed this year.  

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I haven't met anyone new.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

Be flexible.  Whether it's with goals, work situations, relationship issues, etc.  Things change and you have to be adaptable.  Goalposts move.  Health declines.  People change their minds.  The more flexible you are, the easier you can roll through all situations, and the less stress you'll experience.  

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Don't give up, you got to hold on to what you got
You got to keep on moving on don't stop"

I have loved this song for years - Step By Step by Whitney Houston - and this year the "don't give up, keep on moving, don't stop" message was perfect.  It's a very uplifting and motivating song.  And I love that little shoulder raise Whitney does when she's singing it (watch the video).  I sing this one often.

Here are the rest of the lyrics:

Step By Step

Well there's a bridge and there's a river that I still must cross
As I'm going on my journey
Oh, I might be lost

And there's a road I have to follow, a place I have to go
Well no-one told me just how to get there
But when I get there I'll know
Because I'm taking it

Step By Step, Bit by Bit
Stone By Stone (Yeah), Brick by Brick (Oh, yeah)
Step By Step, Day By Day, Mile by mile (ooh, ooh, ooh)

And this old road is rough and ruined
So many dangers along the way
So many burdens might fall upon me
So many troubles that I have to face

Oh, but I won't let my spirit fail me
Oh, I won't let my spirit go
Until I get to my destination
I'm going to take it slowly because I'm making it mine

Step By Step (you know I'm taking it), bit by bit (bit by bit, come move)
Stone by stone (yeah), brick by brick (brick by brick by brick by brick mmm...)
Step by step (step by step uh-huh), day by day (day by day-ee)
Mile by mile (ooh), go your own way

Say it, baby, don't give up
You got to hold on to what you got
Oh, baby, don't give up
You got to keep on moving on don't stop (yeah yeah)
I know you're hurting, and i know you're blue
I know you're hurting but don't let the bad things get to you

Step By Step (you know I'm taking it), bit by bit (bit by bit, come move)
Stone by stone (yeah), brick by brick (brick by brick by brick by brick mmm...)
Step by step (step by step uh-huh), day by day (day by day-ee)
Mile by mile (ooh), go your own way

(come on baby got to keep moving)
(I'm taking it step by step), bit by bit
Stone by stone (yeah, stone by stone), brick by brick
Come on baby
Step by step keep on moving, day by day (day by day-ee)
Mile by mile by mile by mile, go your own way
Come on baby got to keep moving, bit by bit (bit by bit, bit by bit)

And my slogan for the New Year...


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2018: Galloping Into 2019
2017: 2017 Saw A Snowstorm, A Penitentiary, And A Wedding
2016: 2016 Has Ended And It's Time To Breathe Again
2015: The Sun Sets On 2015
2014: Thanks, 2014. For Everything.
2013: I Am Gonna OWN You, 2014!
2012: Wrapping Up A Year Of Making My Own Sunshine
2011: Later, 2011!
2010: That’s A Wrap!
2009: Out With The Old
2008: Another Year, Another 365 Days
2007: All Good Things Come To An End
2006: The Symphony Of A Thousand Saws
2005: Suicidal Firewood

Thursday, December 26, 2019

I Grew A Mater

Earlier this year, I bought two teeny tiny tomato plants at Home Depot.  They were small, like 3" tall.  I got them because Ed had been talking about wanting a garden.  

Well, I grew up with a garden.  A huge one.  And it was a lot of work.  We also didn't live in a place where the sun scorched every living thing its rays could reach.  Between the rabbits devouring anything with a leaf, to the sun frying it, hardly anything but cactus make it out here in Arizona.

I figured if Ed could keep two tiny plants alive and bring them to the point where they bear fruit, I might consider engaging the idea of a garden.  

Well, not only did he keep them alive, they flourished more than I expected.  They're now about 3 feet tall and bearing fruit.  They're pretty actually tasty!

So I guess the next task when we have time home, is to plant a garden.  Personally, I think it's more work than it's worth, I'd rather just go buy what I need at the store.  But, maybe this will turn into the much-needed hobby I'm looking for.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2018: A Delicious Treat On My Day Off
2017: Getting Used To It
2016: Really Old School
2015: Christmas In The Sonoran Desert
2014: Boxing Day Mani-Pedi
2013: Racing Toward The New Year
2012: I Need A Support Group
2011: No One Mentioned The Elephant In The Room, But The Zebra Was A Big Topic Of Discussion
2010: White Chocolate Melts Away
2009: An Appetizer With Heart 
2008: Angelic Eddie Friday
2007: Would You Like A Fried Egg With A Side Of Influenza?
2006: Cerrado
2005: The Best Gift Of All

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Wickedest Little City In America

Earlier in the week we left Des Moines, Iowa with our new truck (pictures to come) and headed to Nebraska (where we picked up our new trailer) before cutting down through Kansas (a state we rarely travel in) on our way home to Tucson. 

On the trip, we passed through Dodge City.

And then we got the hell out of there.

Wikipedia says, "Dodge City became famous, and no town could match its reputation as a true frontier settlement of the Old West. Dodge City had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West, many of whom participated in the Dodge City War of 1883. It also boasted the usual array of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, including the famous Long Branch Saloon and China Doll brothel.  For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen Longhorn bulls."

For your viewing pleasure, here are some bales of hay I photographed as we rolled on through.

Dorothy's House is next.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Just Do It

2017: Weekend In New York
2016: A Friendly Village
2015: Happy Thanksgiving!
2014: I'd Like A Parking Spot For Two Please
2013: I Desire A Snack Eaten Off An Owl Plate
2012: Pulpy Plumes
2011: Saturday Slow Down
2010: Let The Crazy Begin
2009: For Everything Thy Goodness Sends
2008: A Look On The Inside
2007: Free! Gratuito! Gratis! Ummm…No Charge!
2006: Life Giver vs. Indian Giver
2005: The Spaghetti Thanks You

Monday, November 18, 2019

Hello, My Little Dumpling

So...guess what I did this weekend?

I made gnocchi di patate (potato gnocchi) from scratch!

When I was a kid, my paternal grandmother and her sister, Jennie, did all of the cooking for the family.  They are the ones who I get my meatball recipe from, who made braciole to die for, and who made gnocchi by hand.

Here's a picture of Aunt Jennie and Uncle Lawrence making gnocchi at our kitchen table in upstate New York in 1974.  They were and still are my favorite pasta.

Recently I was watching a Pasta Grannies video and came across a video that included homemade gnocchi.  The woman in the video, Giggina, is from Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples in Italy.  She threw together this pranzo (lunch) in record time!

There's really not a recipe.  This gnocchi, like the ones my family made, is made from potatoes and flour.  So I started by boiling russet potatoes until they were fork tender.  While they were still hot but not too hot to handle, I peeled the potatoes and put them in a bowl.  My Aunt Jennie used a potato ricer, but I don't have one so I just mashed them with my potato masher. If I made these more often, I'd probably buy a ricer because the potato pieces come out more uniform.  

Once I had my bowl of mashed potatoes, I took a giant glob of them and added an equal amount of Semolina Flour.  I didn't measure anything, just watched the video and did it like Giggina did, mixing the dough by hand and measuring ingredients by eye.
You don't want to overwork the dough, just incorporate enough flour so the dough is no longer sticky.  Once I got to that point, I cut off a chunk and rolled it into a rope about 1/2' thick, then cut pieces (see photo below) about 3/4" to 1" long.

My grandmother and Aunt Jennie used to "flick" the pieces of dough, by hand, using their thumb to create a little dent as they flicked them away from their body.  Giggina was using a gnocchi board, so I bought one of those because I like the ridges and she made it look so easy.

Moment of truth:  It's not that easy.

I flicked and rolled but it took me a lot longer than what I saw in the video.  Of course, Giggina's probably been making gnocchi for more than 50 years and can roll and flick in her sleep.
 Look at these little beauties!  Perfect ridges, dusted with semolina flour. 
I should have weighed the entire lot when I finished making them but I didn't.  They're a heavy pasta so I'd say based on what I loaded onto the plate, I probably had between four and five pounds.  They actually tasted very light, though.  Magic!

To cook the gnocchi, just drop them into a pot of salted boiling water and fish them out when they start to float.  Don't crowd the pot, cook them in batches.

Can I just say that these little puffy-pillow-turned ridged-beauties were delicious??

I made a basic marinara sauce with shallots and garlic sautéed in olive oil, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a little bit of salt, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and fresh basil from the plant on my kitchen counter.

I tossed the gnocchi in the marinara, then used my microplane grater to grate delicate threads of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the entire platter.  

This meal was AMAZING!

The gnocchi were lighter than I anticipated because the only other time I made them they were heavy, like little cement balls.  These were just delicious.  They tasted like I remember my grandmother and Aunt Jennie's tasted.  They tasted like the ones I get at my favorite place to go for gnocchi.  They tasted exactly as they were supposed to taste.

Who's coming for pranzo?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Colorful Confections
2017: The Opposite Of Being Seen And Not Heard
2016: El Ed Rides El Tour
2015: Not Everything Is Lost
2014: Hairspray Is Gross
2013: Breathing Retro Life Into The West End Of A Miracle Mile
2012: A Little Bit Of Wyoming
2011: A Franchophile’s Paradise

2010: 10 Things I Learned On My Vacation In Italy
2009: A Beautiful Deep Fried Pocket Of Cornmeal Dough. Or, My Mom.
2008: A Foxy Furry Little Friend
2007: The One That Got Away
2006: Don’t We All?
2005: Miss Singular

Friday, November 01, 2019

Bettlejuice At The Playground

Last year we were in Europe, celebrating Halloween on our river cruise ship. 

This year, we celebrated with Halloween Happy Hour at my mother's semi-retirement community.  I say semi-retired because some of the residents in the little community work, the other half are retired.  It was a nice spread - appetizers with BYO beverages.

Some cooler weather hit us this week, and while out for coffee downtown with our friend Kim, we watched costumed young folk heading into The Playground Bar & Lounge, a place we've never been but might consider checking out when it's not being invaded by people 30 years younger than me.

Although I've had some good costumes over the years, and been to several parties, I'm not really one who gets super-excited for Halloween.  At my house, the lights are always out - the universal "stay away" sign for trick-or-treaters.  Maybe we'll watch a scary movie or two. 

But tomorrow....tomorrow I buy Fun Size candy.  On sale.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2018: Bratislava Boo!
2017: Hunting For Halloween Candy
2016: Why I Don't Open My Door
2015: How To Escape The Grim Reaper
2014: Happy HalloCatMoose
2013: It's That Time Of Year
2012: Happy All Hallows' Even
2011: What You’ll Find In The Hills And Hollers Of Tennessee
2010: Three Coins In A Fountain
2009: Truck Or Treat
2008: Spooktacular
2007: Isn’t He Comcastic?
2006: Trick Or Treating With All Ten Toes
2005: Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Edible Jewels

Ed and I recently watched an episode of Arizona Illustrated on PBS that showcased a local chocolatier here in Tucson.  How did I not know this place existed??

Monsoon Chocolate, an award-winning chocolate maker, is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory.  They are located in a former tortilla factory in the Barrio Santa Rosa Historic District.  
As you can see in the photos above and below, giant blocks of chocolate are on display at the factory.  They source cacao from all over the world - Madagascar, Peru, Vitenam, Jamaica, Mexico, Tanzania, Ecuador, and more.
This bowl - and I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the inside of the bowl - contained homemade marshmallows.  Free for the asking.  They were delicious.

Their cafe menu offers brownies, cookies, muffins, pots de crème, chocolate tacos and more.  To wash these treats down, you can choose from hot chocolate, frozen granita, horchata, coffee, tea, juice.

Small pieces of crushed cacao beans.  That's the description of cocoa nibs.  I didn't buy any but now I think I have to make another trip to get a package.  I'm sure I can figure out plenty of things to sprinkle them on or mix them into - yogurt, oatmeal, banana bread, smoothies.  I've even read they have some very significant health benefits - rich in antioxidants, reduce heart disease and diabetes risk, highly nutritious.  Hmmm.  Definitely making another trip to Monsoon Chocolate.  

Here's a photo of a corner of the cafe.

Beautiful chocolate bars. I'm very drawn to the wrapping.  
Here's the box of Bon Bons we purchased.  Each Bon Bon is $3, so not a cheap treat.  But if you were to see the PBS special and understood the way they handcrafted these jewel-toned morsels, you'd understand the reason for the high cost.
All of their Bon Bons are made using their “Monsoon Blend” of bean-to-bar chocolate, which is crafted using cocoa beans from Ecuador, Madagascar, and Uganda. Check out their complete flavor guide.

Here’s a description of the ones we got:

Top Left: Whiskey del Bac Dorado (2 Layers. Buttery caramel and a rich dark chocolate ganache, both infused with Hamilton Distillers’ mesquite-smoked whiskey. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Top Right: Black Cherry Cocoa Nib Caramel (Black cherry caramel with Costa Esmeraldas cocoa nibs. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Bottom Left: Prickly Pear Caramel (Soft caramel made with prickly pear cactus fruit. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.) 

Bottom Right: Chiltepin (Dark chocolate ganache infused with chiltepin pepper. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Center: Mezcal Caramel (Soft caramel center infused with Mezcal Vago Espadin. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

I shared the Bon Bons with my family on our recent Family Dinner night.  We cut each one into three pieces (tiny pieces) so everyone could have a little taste of the one they were interested in.  I was very impressed.  Of these, my favorite was the Black Cherry Cocoa Nib and the Prickly Pear Caramel.

I think this is a beautiful hostess gift, especially if you know the recipient is a chocolate lover.  Opening this little box of jewels is much more exciting than pulling the cork on yet another bottle of wine. 

What I'm trying to say here people, is that if you come to my house for dinner, I fully expect to see these in your hand. 

I thank you in advance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Run, Roll, And Rain
2017: Bee Stop

2016: Prepping The Butt
2015: Strangled By The Capital Beltway
2014: Even The Deer Are Bored
2013: Happy "Columbus" Day!
2012: Not So Subtle
2011: Satan Called. He Wants His Weather Back.
2010: If Only I Looked As Good As He Does
2009: What Grandmothers Do When Their Grandchildren Grow Up
2008: The View Of The Valley And Meadow
2007: A Beautiful Dimple In The Earth
2006: Dive The Sky
2005: G-Y-M

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Bird Of Prey

We are a little over a week into September and things in our neck of the woods are just about the same.

It's still hotter than the pit of hell out here and that heat is wearing on me.  We've had some rain but it hasn't really cooled things off.  It's made it nice and humid, though.  Lovely.

I've been cooking a lot.  And eating.  I've made some new dishes that I was very pleased with.  You can see more photos here on my Instagram account.  

Still bird-watching in my front yard where we've been getting lots of visits from two hawks that live in nearby trees, a cute little Brown-Crested Flycatcher, the bright but tiny Lesser Goldfinch, the silky black Phainopepla, and my favorite, the Gila Woodpecker.

I might have mentioned we went a little crazy with the birdfeeders.  It's like a bird condominium complex out here. Lots of options for visiting birds.

Here's a shot of our hawk who stopped by for a bath.  He likes to get his body in the birdbath, puff up his feathers, and then shimmy his body in the water.  I've tried to get him on video but have been unsuccessful at capturing his bathing ritual.

And I've yet to see him catch anything he preys on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2018:  Down The River
2017:  Valion Pride
2016:  Be Virtually Anywhere
2015:  This Is Not 100% Natural Spring Water
2014:  Rain Day Delay
2013:  That Sunday, That Summer
2012:  Heading To The Mountains
2011:  End Of Summer Rainbow
2010:  UGG, What A Surprise!
2009:  Under The El
2008:  We Escaped With Our Teeth Intact
2007:  Praying In The Jewel Of The South For Over 250 Years
2006:  Drive Time Champion
2005:  Yukon Bet We're Far Away